A young man sits on his bed, staring blankly at a black computer screen. He shall be described as young, because people who commented on his last post told him 33 isn’t old. Suddenly, his face tenses with anger. He clicks helplessly, as though his computer has just crashed and he’s trying to revive it. But the computer did not crash. No, the black screen is a stylistic choice made by a film director. It’s clear that the young man has realized something, that he’s had some sort of realization.
“This is bullshit!” he shouts. “Fuck that movie!” Cut to:
(A quick warning – This section is about the movie Martha Marcy May Marlene. It contains major spoilers. Skip it and the next section if you plan on seeing this movie.)
Martha Marcy May Marlene stars a third Olsen sister (Elizabeth – who was not part of the Tanner family) as a young woman taken in by a hippie cult. John Hawkes (excellent as white trash in last year’s Winterbone) gives his second wonderful performance as white trash (see earlier parenthetical aside), basically playing an updated version of Charles Manson. Elizabeth Olsen digs the hippy cult at first. Then things start getting dark. They shoot a cat and later kill a person. Things aren’t all Kansas anymore, so it’s time for the Olsen girl to hit the road. She escapes to her sister’s house, but eventually becomes paranoid that the cult is coming after her.
It’s actually quite a good, involving movie. Although I’d honestly prefer to have seen Mary Kate or Ashley in the lead, Elizabeth Olsen is talented enough to be believable and the hippie cult stuff is genuinely creepy. But the ending ruins the movie. Oh, the ending.
As I said, Martha (Olsen) thinks the cult is coming after her. In the last shot, we see Martha in the backseat of her brother-in-law’s car. He’s driving. Her sister is in the passenger seat. Out the back window, behind Martha (who, for some reason, is sitting in the middle, in the bitch seat, even though nobody else is in the back with her) (in other words, cute way for the director to nicely frame her in the shot), we see a car follow them. Is it the cult? We think it might be. Martha tries to brush it off. The mystery car speeds up towards them and…
…cut to black. Roll credits. It’s done. That feeling in your stomach? Terrible, terrible dissatisfaction.
Anger. Frustration. Dissatisfaction. I haven’t felt that let down since I learned I wasn’t adopted. That ending…I get it. She’s going to be looking over her shoulder for the rest of her life and not knowing. Great. Personally, I would’ve liked to have had a swell little cult massacre wrap the movie up, but that’s just me. Anything would’ve been more satisfying than what I got. The ambiguous cut-to-black ending is too cute and it’s also derivative. Maybe if this was the first time I’d seen something like that, I’d applaud its audacity. But it’s not, so instead I instantly thought of The Sopranos, The Wrestler, etc. The end of a movie should leave me thinking about the characters, not about Tony Soprano and Steve Perry.
The IMDB Guy Who Was an Asshole
Right after the movie, I went on IMDB to read the message boards. I wanted to see if anyone shared my disappointment. Turns out a lot of people did. However, one guy – named Revolutionow – fucking LOVED every second of the movie apparently and had no qualms belittling anyone who didn’t share his opinion. Instead of putting some effort into a decent argument for his beloved movie (obviously, he must have had a crush on the Olsen girl), this moron resorted to calling people ‘ignorant’ and telling them to ‘stay away from the art house.’ I, personally, was really taken aback, as I’m a huge art house fan (my favorite contemporary director is Nuri Bilge Celan) and I completely agreed with everyone who bashed the ending as overdone and pretentious. How dare you imply I’m ignorant, Revolutionow! And why doesn’t your name have two n’s? Were you inspired by the ‘Before and After’ game on Wheel of Fortune?
An indescribable fury came over me. If Revolutionow was in the room with me, I would’ve shot him. In the testicles, even. I don’t have an IMDB account, and I rushed to sign up. I HAD to give this guy a piece of my mind. I filled all the stuff out, waited for the confirmation email, typed in the squiggly words to prove that my computer is secure or that I can read squiggly words or something (I never understood the purpose. On a side not, I have a really hard time reading them. I’m the only person I know who constantly fails at it. Every time I try to buy something online and squiggly words come up, I get a little anxiety attack.). Finally it was time to call him a bastard and I clicked ‘reply.’ Then IMDB told me I had to send my credit card info to validate my account. I didn’t want to do that. I paused to take a deep breath.
Why was I upset? What was wrong with me? It was a stupid movie and this guy was some message-board-smarty-pants troll. Would he care if I wrote a nasty reply or took the time to thoughtfully explain why the ending didn’t work for me? No and no.
I gave up on IMDB and tried to do my hair like John Hawkes instead.
Is it passion, or is it hatred? What influences someone to be an asshole on message boards? Maybe, just maybe, this guy loved the movie with such fervor that he couldn’t help himself. He was compelled to defend the thing he cherished. But more likely, he’s a normal person who, in the IMDB message board, found a place where he could let his inner asshole go out and play. Message boards seem to be designed to encourage ugliness.
The only defense against message-board-anger is to firmly believe in your own opinion. We want to be open-minded enough to consider the opinions of others. A lot of the time, sadly, it’s best to simply think ‘the movie sucks and so do you’ and leave it at that.